DFLers head for cover in Community Action controversy

MPR reporter Curtis Gilbert’s interview last evening with Sen. Barb Goodwin about a state audit that showed an anti-poverty agency wasted taxpayer money on lavish trips was shocking in its familiarity.

As the controversy unfurls, it repeats a typical theme: Someone tried to blow the whistle on alleged mismanagement and the sound fell on deaf ears.

For 17 years.

Here. Listen.

“If somebody took the time to go back further, they’d see millions of dollars that were misspent,” Goodwin said.

The board of Community Action was — at best — asleep and — at worst — complicit. Which is it?

Rep. Keith Ellison, a member of the board, says he never went to meetings and sent someone else. Rep. Jeff Hayden says he designated his wife and he — or is it she? — quit the board yesterday while calling for the resignation of executive director Bill Davis.

At a meeting of the board yesterday, which was closed to the media, only six of 11 board members showed up, the Star Tribune reports.

If you believe the members of the board who are talking, they’re shocked to find there’s gambling in this establishment.

It might be a more believable defense — “we didn’t know” — were it not for Sen. Goodwin confirming she’s been telling people about the hints of a mess for 17 years. And lowering the cone of silence in the aftermath of the audit’s report doesn’t inspire confidence, either.

While Davis is the target of those heading for cover, the Star Tribune’s editorial board today shines its light on the board of well-connected DFLers, but generally pulled its punches.

Regular and advisory board members during the time of the audit included U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis; Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson; former council member Robert Lilligren, and State Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis.

Ellison, who resigned from the board Monday, said he had not attended any meetings and had appointed an alternate to serve on his behalf. He said the audit results were “serious and require corrective action.’’

Johnson and Hayden said they had also appointed alternates. Johnson said she was “dismayed that this wasn’t identified.” Hayden issued a statement claiming that neither he nor his appointee (his wife, Terri) benefited improperly. He resigned from the board Tuesday and called for Davis to step down.

Republicans will hold a news conference today to call for an ethics investigation into Hayden.

Maybe then someone will ask why a Legislature — alternatively controlled by the GOP and DFL — ignored the warning signs for 17 years.